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5775 — A year of forgotten victims of terrorism and war in Israel

A religious boy looks at a worker cleaning up debris from a rocket from Gaza which hit a parking lot next to an apartment building late 29 October in Ashdod, Israel, 30 October 2011. Egyptian officials said efforts to persuade Palestinian factions in Gaza to hold their rocket fire on Israel have failed, after a day of deadly, escalated violence that continued into early hours of 30 October. EPA/OLIVER WEIKEN

Not a single day went by during the course of 5775 when there wasn’t at least one terror attack perpetrated against Israeli civilians, IDF soldiers or other security personnel, whether by Palestinian terrorists operating from Judea, Samaria, Gaza and East Jerusalem, Hezbollah and al-Qaeda terrorists orchestrating attacks along the borders with Lebanon and Syria or ISIS cells launching attacks from Egypt’s terrorist laden Sinai Peninsula.

Unlike last summer, when thousands of missiles were being fired at Israeli civilian population centers by Hamas terrorists in Gaza during the IDF’s “Operation: Protective Edge,” which produced headlines all over the world, 5775’s daily stabbings, shootings, stone-throwing’s, car-rammings, Molotov cocktail attacks and yes, even the occasional missile attack from Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Sinai have barely registered interest amongst the international press corps stationed in Israel.  

To underscore the on-going missile threat, terrorists in Gaza attempted to hit the metro Ashkelon area just hours before the start of the new school year on Sept. 1. {mprestriction ids="1,3"}Though the missile failed to reach its target, the sound of the “red alert” siren in the area was enough to frighten children and parents alike. 

During June and July alone, Israeli civilians and security personnel in Jerusalem, Israel’s capital city, were the targets of 580 acts of terrorism, highlighted by 477 incidents of stones being hurled at cars and 28 incidents of Molotov cocktails being tossed at cars driving on roads and local streets, as well as Jewish-owned homes. Not even the dead were spared, with at least a half-dozen recorded instances of tombstones being desecrated on the Mt. of Olives. 

During 5775, terror attacks across Israel cost the lives of at least 9 Israeli citizens, the most horrific of which was the bloody massacre of four civilians (including three who held dual American-Israeli citizenship) during morning prayers at the Kehillat Yaakov synagogue in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood on Nov. 17, 2014. Hundreds of others were wounded during the course of the year.

However, as is the nature of the daily news cycle, the victims of terrorism and war, whether in 5775 or in previous years, are quickly forgotten despite the fact that the enduring emotional and physical pain, almost never goes away. Who cares for these people on an on-going basis?

Does anyone remember Kay Wilson, the British-Israeli citizen who took her American-born, Christian friend, Kristine Luken, on a hike through the picturesque Jerusalem Hills on Dec. 18, 2010, when they were ambushed by Palestinian terrorists, who promptly hacked Luken to death, while Wilson barely survived the horrifying 19 machete stab wounds she received at the hands of the terrorists? 

Since her release from the hospital over four years ago, Kay has suffered from on-going physical pain as a result of her injuries, as well as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Israel’s bureaucratic maze offers limited compensation to victims of terrorism. 

For Kay, the forthcoming High Holiday season spurs a range of emotions.

“Rosh Hashanah and the festivals are a joyful time, yet for victims of terrorism such as myself, they come with a bitter-sweet taste. While I am thankful for being alive to celebrate another year ahead and express deep gratitude for the year that has passed, I am unable to skip over the fact that life does not go on as normal for people like myself. I wish life did but it simply cannot,” she revealed. “The effect of terror is eternal. For me, terror is both a physical and metaphorical knife that slashed to pieces all that I was, leaving behind both visible and invisible scars. Scars aren’t always sore but they are always there. My scars are a reminder to me of how fortunate I was to escape death but also a mission to remind people that others are not so fortunate. For survivors of terrorism the miraculous and the agony go hand in hand.”

Kay is but one of thousands of victims of terrorism and war, who are receiving on-going counseling from OneFamily, a cutting-edge organization that was created by a philanthropic Anglo immigrant family, in the aftermath of the Sbarro restaurant suicide bombing at the height of the Second Intifada in 2001. OneFamily rehabilitates, reintegrates and rebuilds the lives of Israel’s victims of terrorism and war of all ages. Their varied services run the gamut from financial and legal aid to psychological counseling, an invigorating summer camp for children and therapeutic retreats for adults in Israel and abroad.

According to Pini Rabinovich, OneFamily’s coordinator for Southern Israel, last summer’s missile attacks are still claiming victims to this day.

“A significant number of children actually started suffering from PTSD six months after the war. Sometimes there is a delay and in some cases, where there are many kids in a family, a sister or brother suffering from PTSD can actually drag his/her sibling into PTSD as well,” said Rabinovich. “Just picking up a newspaper and seeing the sometimes foreboding black and red headlines on the front page can inadvertently spur a PTSD episode.”

Yonatan Amit, a staff psychologist at OneFamily concurred. “I am constantly working to strengthen the family unit so people can move forward with their lives. But, based on the ongoing violence, people are fearful that another intifada has started. They are afraid to travel on the roads and they are worried about their children. Most problematic is the fact that these victims of terrorism and war don’t see a solution.”

And that is an ominous omen for this New Year.

Steve Walz, a noted editor & journalist, is the spokesperson for OneFamily. (www.onefamilytogether.org){/mprestriction}